Common Curiosity

we-are-enterprise-logo-150x150I am a curious person.

What I have been curious about for some time is whether or not what I am seeing anecdotally from many educators and parents around the state and the country in regards to Common Core are true here in the Enterprise City School System. I call it a Common Curiosity.

I suspect if it is true here any ECS employee would probably not feel comfortable or safe voicing their opinion publicly because you do want to keep your jobs. I get that. I know that Tommy Bice has bragged about schools showing teachers the door if they didn’t conform to the new teaching philosophy and methods “recommended” by the Alabama State School Board. So I understand your reluctance to talk openly or maybe even among yourselves because you are unsure of how others might feel about the subject.

I also understand that I am just a guy with a blog and there is no compulsion or reason for you to respond to my curiosity if you choose not to. I get that too.

However, since I am curious, I wanted to describe a few examples or anecdotes I have seen reported elsewhere and see if they are familiar and are happening here. I think too often we think, “(Insert scenario or issue here) is bad but I know it is not happening here. We are fine.”

I am curious. Are we really?

Teacher Resigns Over Common Core

This story is from April last year but that doesn’t make it any less illustrative of what many teachers are going through today. Colorado public school teacher Pauline Hawkins resigned from her position as a high school English teacher in protest to Common Core standards. You can see her full resignation letter on her blog here. A couple of quotes from that letter on her blog post stood out to me.

“We feel defeated and helpless: If we speak out, we are reprimanded for not being team players; if we do as we are told, we are supporting a broken system….
I cannot stand by and watch this happen to our precious children–our future. The irony is I cannot fight for their rights while I am working in the system.”

Here is a link to another blog that gives several more examples of teachers quitting with Common Core as the primary reason, Common Core, How Many Teachers and Parents Have to Leave. There are teachers from New York, Ohio, Florida and several other states. Are there teachers in Enterprise, Alabama who feel the same and have reached this point of frustration?

Some of My Thoughts

It seems odd to me when one of the big buzzwords in teaching now is “engagement” with the students yet conformity is what is required from the teachers by the administrators as indicated by the Pauline Hawkins quote above. Do as I say, not as I do seems to be the rule rather than the exception.

I may be old-fashioned…No…I am definitely old-fashioned but I would think a better environment for teachers and students would be one where administrators engaged with teachers and students conformed. After students learn to conform they can then learn to engage. I don’t think it works as well when those are reversed but that is just me.

Is input from teachers, the ones who know the students and know best how to  reach and teach them, encouraged and welcomed or are you “reprimanded for not being team players” or worse when you suggest a different possibly better way to get the desired result?

Curriculum Concerns – Teachers and Parents

There was a recent story from Florida where a world history class was teaching the seven pillars of Islam but not Christianity in a World Religion class. The pages that would have covered Christianity had somehow been removed from the book.

I assume you have all seen some of the bizarre examples of what students are going through to solve simple math problems. If not just google “common core math problems” and you will have millions of examples. I just got 4.3 million. Is that methodology being used here in Enterprise? Does it make sense to anyone?

Is social engineering based on someone other than your own beliefs, principles and standards taking place in your child’s English and Math courses? Is History being omitted, added to, emphasized or de-emphasized in order to promote this same social agenda?

Are curriculum decisions really being made at the local level or somewhere above that?

Your Turn

These are some of the things I am curious about and look forward to hearing if anyone else has these same curiosities, concerns or examples from your experience as a parent or teacher. The only way I can gauge that is by your responses to this blog by either sharing it, responding to it, if you feel comfortable doing that, or letting me know your thoughts or thumbs up or thumbs down when you see me at Walmart, School Board Meetings, Church, etc.

If I do get feedback I will provide an update to this blog to let everyone know.

If you are not comfortable commenting here on the blog comments or on Facebook you can send me an email at stansblog@roadrunner.com with your comments, examples or to tell me I am clueless and need to go jump in the lake. Feedback from you, the reader, is the only way I know if any of this makes sense to anyone other than me.

Any update I do publish will not mention any names or comments that would indicate where they originated without your consent. I will just give a generic update describing the responses I received and aggregate numbers.

I am curious now to see your response.

Until next time…

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The Common Core Experiment

Apfelgriebsch, Apfelbutzen, Apfel, Applebutt
Apfelgriebsch, Apfelbutzen, Apfel, Applebutt (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have been reading about and studying this experiment called Common Core for some time. My initial hope was to develop some grand yet simple opinion based on this research that might revolutionize the world. However, as I have been unable to reach that simple conclusion, I decided to write about some of what I have learned so far and some questions still unanswered for me.

I also want to provide resources I have found for you to do your own research and join me on this journey.

I welcome your feedback as that is another way I can learn more and we can learn together. This is one of the most confusing subjects I have ever seen in trying to discern who is telling the truth, who is not, and who is just trying to implement the program because it is a requirement to keep their job.

Just to be clear…so you will know where I am coming from on this issue I am a conservative so any time the federal government expands to take more control of issues that are best left to the states and local governments I am concerned and skeptical of the motives behind those actions. They tend to be mostly power and control related and not in the best interest of those the elected officials were elected to serve. This is one of those issues and I am skeptical that Common Core will actually be what their claims say it will be.

What typically happens is these over-reaching initiatives, policies, or laws are graded on their publicly stated intent by their advocates and not the results produced. There is little or no accountability and adding more of our tax dollars is always the ‘fix’ needed. I am more concerned about the end result of this experiment and the goals not publicly stated being achieved.

Everyone, whether you have school-age children taking part in this experiment or not, needs to learn more about this experiment called Common Core. It WILL affect YOU!

The children in school now are those who will vote and lead in the future so what they are being taught matters to everyone, whether you have children in school now or not. I am not opposed to change or new ideas. I have worked in the computer industry for over 30 years and there are changes almost every day. Change is inevitable and can be good or bad.

When the education and indoctrination of the next generation is at stake I think due diligence is warranted. I am not confident due diligence has been done for this experiment called Common Core. We are talking about the lives and futures of the children of the country now, not a new technological advancement. Despite claims to the contrary by its proponents,

– It is being tested now with those in school now as the guinea pigs.

Too many people are thinking ‘It is not my problem since I don’t have kids in school’ or ‘I trust those making these decisions have pure motives and are doing what is best for the children, and are not making decisions in order to receive more federal funds or fueling their own egos or political power.’

Investigate for yourself and make your own decision and then take action if what you learn warrants it.

Here are some things I have learned

1) There is no Common Core standard curriculum so you have to trust your state and local school boards to select the curriculum and textbooks that the children will be using. Do you trust your state and local board members enough to just let them make these decisions?

There are so-called “social justice” lessons being taught in math and English textbooks by the examples used in both. These lessons might not agree with what you want your children to learn or your definition of social justice. Have you read any of your children’s math books lately? That, along with some of the new methods I have seen for solving simple math problems are concerns for me.

2) Development of a national curriculum is one of the unstated goals of Common Core based on the opinions of at least two educators involved in creating the standards who refused to sign the standards.

3) The Common Core State Standards did begin as a collaboration between states but $4.3 billion of federal stimulus funds called Race To The Top and waivers for states to adhere to No Child Left Behind were the carrots that prompted so many states to so quickly adopt these standards. Alabama did not receive any Race To The Top funds but did receive a waiver for No Child Left Behind.

4)

Here are some unanswered questions

1) Where are the dollars being spent? The $4.3 billion and cost savings from waivers granted for No Child Left Behind is going somewhere. They are apparently not getting to the classrooms or teachers as they are still required to hold fund-raisers or take donations just to have the basic supplies they need to do their jobs. Is the money going to administrative personnel, unions, textbook, testing companies, or political campaigns against any candidate who either questions or opposes Common Core?

2) In setting a standard for at least two unique groups of students, those who plan to further their education in college (College Ready) and those who plan to enter the work force or vocational school after high school (Career Ready), how can this be done without “dumbing down” the existing standards and corresponding tests? We have been told the standards are more rigorous and tougher. How can that be?

Surface Barely Scratched – Form Your Own Opinion

This has barely even scratched the surface and is by no means intended to be a complete discussion on this subject. I plan to write more later as I learn more. One goal for this post is to do what I can to bring more awareness of this subject to those who might not have been following it before or who mistakenly thought it would not affect them. If I have done that then this post has been a success.

A second goal for this post is to encourage you to consider the questions, learn more, think for yourself and formulate your own opinion.

Below are the resources I promised earlier where you can learn more about this subject yourself from both sides of the subject. This is not an exhaustive list either but is a good starting point to learn more.

Alabama State Department of Education

Common Core Issues

Alabama College & Career Ready Standards (CCRS)

Truth in American Education

School Official Explain Differences in Common Core and Local Resources

Reasons to Repeal Common Core in Alabama

Common Core State Standards Initiative

Stop Common Core in Alabama

Dr. Pesta – Common Core Presentation – 11-09-14 – Newnan, GA

Four Seattle Teachers Declare: “We Refuse to Give the Tests”

Until next time…

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